Seeing a Thing a Thousand Times: A Writing Prompt

There’s a certain grain of stupidity a writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more you see the world in it; and it’s well to remember that the serious fiction writer always writes about the whole world, no matter how limited his particular scene. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima affects life on the Oconee River, and there’s not anything you can do about it.

~ Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners

Try this: Stare at an object. It could be literally anything– an ink pen, a framed certificate, a pile of junk TVs, a worn book, a dirty cigarette butt, a piece of costume jewelry. Look at it closely. Really stare at it. Stare at it a thousand times. Then write a paragraph telling us what that object “knows” about the whole world. Be sure to use concrete details that activate the senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell).

I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.

~ Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

Or here’s another version you might prefer instead:

Write a paragraph about a character who finds something. What is it? From what new (or old?) world does it come? Describe the object as it formerly existed in that other world while your character studies it. How much of that other world can your character discern simply from staring at the object?

For inspiration, visit an antique store or see if you can find a yard sale. Find one object to stare at– or you may decide to stare at the yard sale itself.

 

Copyright 2014. Sheryl Monks. All rights reserved.

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